Air Cargo’s Priorities Unchanged: Digitalization, Safety and Sustainability

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IATA has said that the three main priorities that
will enable the air cargo industry to maintain momentum against
the backdrop of a challenging operating environment, remain
unchanged as:
digitalization, safety and sustainability.

“Air cargo is a different industry than the one
that entered the pandemic,” said Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s Global
Head of Cargo. “Revenues are greater than they were
pre-pandemic. Yields are higher. The world learned how critical
supply chains are. And the contribution of air cargo to the bottom
line of airlines is more evident than ever. Yet, we are still
linked to the business cycle and global events. So, the war in
Ukraine, uncertainty over where critical economic factors like
interest rates, exchange rates and jobs growth are concerns that
are real to the industry today. As we navigate the current
situation, air cargo’s priorities have not changed, we need to
continue to focus on sustainability, digitalization, and safety.”


Air cargo needs to continuously
improve its efficiency, and the area with greatest potential is
digitalization. IATA has outlined three goals:

Cargolux Boeing 747-4F reg: LX-ICL flying HSV to LUX at approx. 34,000 feet. Picture by Steven Howard of

– 100% airline
capability of ONE Record by January 2026. This initiative will
replace the many data standards used for transport documents with
a single record for every shipment. The Cargo Services Conference
agreed on Sunday that it wants to achieve 100% airline capability
by 1 January 2026 and the Cargo Advisory Council supports this

– Ensuring digital standards are in place to support
the global supply chain. Guidance has been finalized on tracking
devices – the IATA Interactive Cargo guidelines – used to monitor
the quality and accuracy of conditions of time and temperature
sensitive goods being shipped across the world.

– Ensuring
compliance and support for customs, trade facilitation and other
government processes that are increasingly digitalized.
Digitalization plays an important role in evolving strategies for
trade facilitation, reducing operational barriers at borders and
managing the flows of goods securely.


“The agenda for air cargo continues to be dominated by lithium
batteries. A lot has been done. But, quite honestly, it is still
not enough,” said Sullivan.

IATA outlined three
safety priorities for air cargo:

– Stopping rogue
shippers, Civil aviation authorities must take strong action
against shippers not declaring lithium batteries in cargo or mail shipments.

– Accelerating the development of a test standard
for fire-resistant aircraft containers with a fire involving
lithium batteries.

– Ensuring recognition from governments of
the single standard to identify all lithium battery powered
vehicles which comes into effect from 1 January 2025.


Sustainability is a critical
priority and the aviation industry’s license to do business. Last
October, at the 41st ICAO Assembly, governments agreed to the
Long-Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) of net zero carbon emissions by
2050, in line with the industry’s commitment adopted in 2021.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is critical to achieving this
goal as 65% of carbon abatement will come from SAF, however,
production levels remain challenging.

“SAF is being produced.
And every single drop is being used. The problem is that the
quantities are small. The solution is government policy
incentives. Through incentivizing production, we could see 30
billion liters of SAF available by 2030. That will still be far
from where we need to be. But it would be a clear tipping point
towards our net zero ambition of ample SAF quantities at
affordable prices,” Sullivan said.

IATA outlined three
other areas where it was working to support the energy transition
of the industry:

– Supporting effective carbon
calculations and offsetting through the development of accurate
and standardized emissions calculation methodology and the launch
of CO2 Connect for Cargo later this year – a precise tool for
calculating emissions from operations.

– Expanding the IATA
Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) to airports, cargo handling
facilities, freight forwarders, and ramp handlers to allow the industry to drive commercial success, build trust in our
sustainability actions, and positively impact the industry.

Developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) related
metrics to cut through the many methodologies in circulation with
ESG Metrics Guidance for Airlines.

“Air cargo is a critically
important industry. It helps build a better future for the people
of the world. it’s an industry that saves lives, delivering aid
and relief to those in need. The industry mobilized to support
those affected by the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye. Working
together to ensure that air cargo remains a reliable and efficient
means of providing support to those in need, while simultaneously
strengthening our global supply chains and contributing to the
sustainable development of our economies is essential,” concluded

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